Merchants' Night is a chance for New Denver businesses to give something back to the community. The doors stay open well into the evening, food and goodies are discounted or given away, and residents of the tiny West Kootenay town (popn: 500), wander up and down Main Street as the fire truck flashes and Christmas bulbs illuminate the scene below.
At the far end of the street, in quaint little Nuru Coffee Bar, Tamara and me prepare the annual Southern Succor feast. The 'Whos' in Whoville would be proud, despite the fact that we're serving BBQ pulled pork instead of Roast Beast. The rest of the dinner consists of: maple-ale baked beans, red cabbage slaw, a buttermilk biscuit, and gingerbread cake topped with drizzled caramel sauce and a roasted pecan. Patrons who wish to do so can also drizzle Carolina Red cayenne sauce on their pork.
We start with 33 pounds of pork - sourced by Guy the fabulous butcher at Nelson Safeway. Guy knows his barbecue. We lay the shoulders out and generously coat them with mustard.
Then we apply the dry rub - a modified version of Armadillo Willy's. The main ingredient is La Chinata smoked Spanish paprika. Don't bother with cheaper substitutes; they're not even close.
The smoke actually begins the night before. It will take 16 hours for the pork to reach 190F over a mix of lump Quebec charcoal, apple wood, and pecan. A few chunks of hickory are tossed in for good measure. Once the smoking temperature settles in for the night, I try to grab a few hours' sleep: it's useless - I'm restless as a six-year-old on Christmas Eve.
The pork comes off early the next afternoon. We wrap it in foil, blanket it in towels, and place it in a cooler to 'render' for three hours before serving it that evening. Rendering helps to break down the remaining fat and connective tissue. The result is some of the most succulent, tender pulled pork you'll ever eat.
The lineup is long by the time Tamara opens the door and rings the dinner triangle to welcome the guests. The BBQ smoke has been drifting over the town all day; mingling with the chimney smoke and setting dogs barking and mouths watering.
When the first sitting commences and silence descends on the old historic house save for the working of jaws, I steal away in hopes of glimpsing Santa. Rumour has it he's down the street riding shotgun in the fire truck. People mingle round the local credit union - kids chomping on hotdogs and sipping hot chocolate out of styrofoam cups. Smiles and laughter everywhere.
The only thing missing, far as I can tell, is snow. We had some earlier in the week, but several days of steady rain has cleared the lawns and wet the sidewalks, if not people's spirits. Snow ... and Santa. I can't find him anywhere. A passerby tells me he's gone to find a Men's Room. It's not something you really stop to think about - Saint Nick needing a bathroom break. But apparently that's the case, so I chalk it up to a couple of rum-and-eggnogs at the North Pole before departure, and head back up the street into the dark and nostalgic night.